OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media: “Participating States should not use spyware against journalists”

VIENNA, 21 July 2021 — OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Teresa Ribeiro expressed today her profound concern about the reported usage of surveillance-software against journalists. She called upon all participating States to refrain from using such tools and techniques against media workers and to protect journalists from the use of such software against them by third parties.

According to a recent exposé by a global consortium of media publications — including The Washington Post, The Guardian and Le Monde — surveillance software has been widely used to infiltrate communication devices of journalists and other media workers. “The use of such tools against journalists is incompatible with the principles we agreed upon in the OSCE region,” Ribeiro said. “It has a profoundly chilling effect on the work of journalists and stifles media freedom.”

The Representative referred to the 2018 Ministerial Council Decision on the Safety of Journalists, where the participating States agreed to “refrain from employing unlawful or arbitrary surveillance techniques, noting that such acts infringe on the journalists’ enjoyment of human rights, and could put them at potential risk of violence and threats to their safety”.

Ribeiro added that the use of spyware endangers the principle that journalists must be able to protect their sources in order to carry out safely their important democratic function. “Already in 1989, in their Third Follow-up Meeting to the Helsinki Conference, the participating States recognized the importance of respecting the journalistic principle of professional confidentiality.”

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.

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